Western Union Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results

Strong digital growth
Full year operating margin 20.1%
Over $740 million returned to shareholders in 2018
Quarterly dividend increased 5%

The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU), a global leader in cross-border, cross-currency money movement, today reported financial results for the 2018 fourth quarter and full year and provided its financial outlook for 2019.

GAAP earnings per share in the fourth quarter was $0.48 compared to a loss of ($2.44) in the prior year period, as the prior year period was negatively impacted by significant adjustment items (refer to Adjustment Items section for details). On an adjusted basis, earnings per share was $0.49 compared to $0.41 in the prior year period. The increase in adjusted earnings per share was primarily due to an increased operating profit margin, a lower effective tax rate, and fewer shares outstanding, partially offset by lower revenues.

The Company generated revenue of $1.4 billion in the quarter, which declined 3% compared to the prior year, or increased 2% on a constant currency basis. The strengthening of the dollar against the Argentine peso negatively impacted reported revenue by 4 percentage points in the quarter, while the effects of inflation on the Company’s Argentina-based businesses are estimated to have positively impacted both reported and constant currency revenue by approximately 2 percentage points.

Consumer money transfer revenues declined 1% in the quarter due to the impact of foreign exchange, but increased 1% in constant currency, led by strong growth in westernunion.com. The Company’s operating profit margin was 19.3% in the quarter.

“Strong digital growth continues to drive our results,” said president and CEO Hikmet Ersek. “Westernunion.com money transfer transaction growth accelerated to 25% in the quarter, while overall margins were solid. Our customers have consistently demonstrated their resilience, even in periods of slowing global economic growth.”

Ersek added, “In 2018 we made important strategic progress. We feel confident about our operations and business. In 2019 we will continue to execute our strategy to deliver strong digital expansion, offer our cross-border platform to new payments areas, and generate additional operating efficiencies.”

The new quarterly dividend of $0.20 per common share, which represents a 5% increase over the previous dividend of $0.19, is payable March 29, 2019 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 15, 2019.

Executive vice president and CFO Raj Agrawal stated, “Efficient cost management and our WU Way programs helped us deliver stable profit margins and solid cash flow in 2018. We returned over $740 million to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases last year and are pleased to announce today a 5% increase in our quarterly dividend.”

Q4 Business Unit Highlights

  • Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) revenues, which represented 80% of total Company revenue in the quarter, declined 1% on a reported basis, or increased 1% constant currency, while transactions grew 4%. Geographically, constant currency revenue growth was led by sends originated in Latin America and Europe, partially offset by declines in the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
  • Westernunion.com C2C revenues increased 21%, or 22% constant currency, and transactions increased 25%. Westernunion.com is now available in more than 60 countries, plus additional territories, including approximately 20 new launches over the past year. Westernunion.com revenues represented 12% of total C2C revenue in the quarter.
  • Western Union Business Solutions revenues increased 3%, or 5% on a constant currency basis, driven by growth in both payments and foreign exchange services. Business Solutions represented 7% of total Company revenues in the quarter.
  • Other revenues, which primarily consist of bill payments businesses in the U.S. and Argentina, declined 11%, or increased 10% on a constant currency basis. The strengthening of the dollar against the Argentine peso negatively impacted Other reported revenue by 21 percentage points in the quarter, while the effects of inflation on the Argentina Pago Facil bill payments business are estimated to have positively impacted both reported and constant currency revenue by approximately 11 percentage points. Other revenues represented 13% of total Company revenues in the quarter.

Additional Q4 Financial Highlights

  • GAAP operating margin in the quarter was 19.3%, which compares to (17.5%) in the prior year period, or 18.0% in the prior year on an adjusted basis. GAAP operating profit of $271 million compares to a loss of ($252) million in the prior year, or $258 million in the prior year on an adjusted basis. The improvement in GAAP operating profit was primarily due to adjustment items in the prior year period. The improvement in adjusted operating profit margin was driven by lower bad debt, marketing, and incentive compensation expenses compared to the prior year period, which were partially offset by higher corporate expenses and technology spending.
  • The effective tax rate in the quarter was 9.8%, with tax expense in the current year quarter of $23 million comparing to $832 million in the prior year period. The decrease in tax expense was primarily due to the impact of the Tax Act in the U.S. On an adjusted basis, the tax rate was 6.3% compared to 14.3% in the prior year period. The decrease in the adjusted effective tax rate was primarily due to certain discrete items in the current year period.
  • The Company returned $133 million to shareholders in the fourth quarter, consisting of $49 million in share repurchases and $84 million of dividends.

2018 Full Year Results

  • The Company’s full year revenue increased 1%, or 3% on a constant currency basis, compared to the prior year. The strengthening of the dollar against the Argentine peso reduced reported revenue growth by approximately 2.5 percentage points, while the impact of inflation on the Company’s Argentina-based businesses is estimated to have increased revenue growth by approximately 1.5 percentage points.
  • GAAP operating margin of 20.1% compares to 8.6% in the prior year, or 20.0% on an adjusted basis in 2017. The improvement in GAAP operating margin was primarily due to adjustment items in the prior year period.
  • The effective tax rate for the year was 14.1%. The full year tax expense was $139 million, which compares to $905 million in the prior year, with the decrease primarily due to the impact of adjustment items in the prior year, including expenses associated with the Tax Act. Excluding the impact of the Tax Act and other adjustment items, the adjusted tax rate of 11.8% for the full year compares to 13.1% in 2017. The adjusted tax rate in both periods benefited from various discrete items.
  • GAAP earnings / (loss) per share of $1.87 increased from ($1.19) in the prior year, primarily due to adjustment items in the prior year. Adjusted earnings per share of $1.92 compares to $1.80 in 2017. The increase in adjusted earnings per share was primarily due to higher revenues, a lower effective tax rate, and fewer shares outstanding.
  • GAAP cash flow from operating activities for the year was $821 million, including the impact of approximately $120 million of tax payments related to the agreement with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service announced in 2011, a $60 million payment for the previously announced NYDFS settlement, and approximately $30 million of outflows for prior year WU Way expenses. The Company returned $741 million to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases for the full year.

Adjustment Items

Adjusted metrics for 2018 exclude the impact of tax expense related to changes in estimates for the provisional accounting for the Tax Act ($8 million for Q4 and $23 million for the full year).

Adjusted metrics for 2017 exclude the impact of the Tax Act ($828 million for Q4 and full year), a non-cash goodwill impairment charge related to the Business Solutions reporting unit ($464 million for Q4 and full year), expenses related to the WU Way business transformation ($35 million for Q4 and $94 million for full year), an accrual related to a settlement with the New York Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS Settlement,” $11 million for Q4 and $60 million for full year), additional expenses for an independent compliance auditor as required by the Joint Settlement Agreements ($8 million for full year), and related tax impacts.

2019 Outlook

The Company’s strategies remain focused on digital expansion, customer experience improvements, operating efficiencies, and new cross-border payments opportunities. In 2019, the Company expects stable financial performance in a slowing global economic growth environment, with a negative impact from foreign exchange and a higher effective tax rate compared to the prior year, primarily due to impacts from the U.S. Tax Act’s Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT).

The Company has identified and is in the process of implementing structural actions to mitigate the adverse impact of BEAT. The 2019 outlook reflects an effective tax rate of approximately 17-18%, which anticipates the mitigation efforts are implemented in stages during the year. The Company currently expects the effective tax rate to be in the mid-teens level in 2020, reflecting the full effect of mitigation.

The Company expects the following outlook for 2019:

Revenue

  • GAAP: low single-digit decrease to a low single-digit increase
  • Constant currency: low single-digit increase (excluding any benefit related to Argentina inflation)

Operating Profit Margin

  • Operating margin of approximately 20%

Tax Rate

  • Effective tax rate of approximately 17% to 18% in 2019

Earnings per Share

  • EPS in a range of $1.83 to $1.95

Cash Flow

  • Cash flow from operating activities of approximately $1 billion

Additional Statistics

Additional key statistics for the quarter and historical trends can be found in the supplemental tables included with this press release.

Expenses related to the goodwill impairment, NYDFS Settlement, Joint Settlement Agreements and the WU Way business transformation are not included in operating segment results, as they are excluded from the measurement of segment operating income provided to the chief operating decision maker for purposes of assessing segment performance and decision making with respect to resource allocation. Expenses associated with the WU Way business transformation initiative were effectively complete as of December 31, 2017.

All amounts included in the supplemental tables to this press release are rounded to the nearest tenth of a million, except as otherwise noted. As a result, the percentage changes and margins disclosed herein may not recalculate precisely using the rounded amounts provided.

Non-GAAP Measures

Western Union presents a number of non-GAAP financial measures because management believes that these metrics provide meaningful supplemental information in addition to the GAAP metrics and provide comparability and consistency to prior periods. Constant currency results assume foreign revenues are translated from foreign currencies to the U.S. dollar, net of the effect of foreign currency hedges, at rates consistent with those in the prior year.

These non-GAAP financial measures include consolidated revenue change constant currency adjusted; Consumer-to-Consumer segment revenue change constant currency adjusted; Consumer-to-Consumer segment westernunion.com revenue change constant currency adjusted; Business Solutions segment revenue change constant currency adjusted; Other revenue change constant currency adjusted; consolidated operating income, excluding the impact from goodwill impairment, NYDFS Settlement, Joint Settlement Agreements and WU Way business transformation expenses; consolidated operating margin, excluding goodwill impairment, NYDFS Settlement, Joint Settlement Agreements and WU Way business transformation expenses; effective tax rate excluding goodwill impairment, NYDFS Settlement, Joint Settlement Agreements, WU Way business transformation expenses and Tax Act; earnings per share, excluding goodwill impairment, NYDFS Settlement, Joint Settlement Agreements, WU Way business transformation expenses and Tax Act; and additional measures found in the supplemental tables included with this press release. Although the expenses related to the WU Way business transformation are specific to that initiative, the types of expenses related to the WU Way business transformation are similar to expenses that the Company has previously incurred and can reasonably be expected to incur in the future.

Reconciliations of non-GAAP to comparable GAAP measures are available in the accompanying schedules and in the “Investor Relations” section of the Company’s website at http://ir.westernunion.com.

Investor and Analyst Conference Call and Slide Presentation

The Company will host a conference call and webcast, including slides, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time today. To listen to the conference call via telephone, dial +1 (888) 317-6003 (U.S.) or +1 (412) 317-6061 (outside the U.S.) ten minutes prior to the start of the call. The pass code is 9862712.

The conference call and accompanying slides will be available via webcast at http://ir.westernunion.com. Registration for the event is required, so please register at least five minutes prior to the scheduled start time.

A webcast replay will be available at http://ir.westernunion.com.

Please note: All statements made by Western Union officers on this call are the property of Western Union and subject to copyright protection. Other than the replay, Western Union has not authorized, and disclaims responsibility for, any recording, replay or distribution of any transcription of this call.

Safe Harbor Compliance Statement for Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains certain statements that are forward-looking within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks, uncertainties and assumptions that are difficult to predict. Actual outcomes and results may differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, our forward-looking statements. Words such as “expects,” “intends,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “estimates,” “guides,” “provides guidance,” “provides outlook” and other similar expressions or future or conditional verbs such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “would,” “could,” and “might” are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. Readers of this press release of The Western Union Company (the “Company,” “Western Union,” “we,” “our” or “us”) should not rely solely on the forward-looking statements and should consider all uncertainties and risks discussed in the “Risk Factors” section and throughout the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2017. The statements are only as of the date they are made, and the Company undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statement.

Possible events or factors that could cause results or performance to differ materially from those expressed in our forward-looking statements include the following: (i) events related to our business and industry, such as: changes in general economic conditions and economic conditions in the regions and industries in which we operate, including global economic downturns and trade disruptions, or significantly slower growth or declines in the money transfer, payment service, and other markets in which we operate, including downturns or declines related to interruptions in migration patterns, or non-performance by our banks, lenders, insurers, or other financial services providers; failure to compete effectively in the money transfer and payment service industry, including among other things, with respect to price, with global and niche or corridor money transfer providers, banks and other money transfer and payment service providers, including electronic, mobile and Internet-based services, card associations, and card-based payment providers, and with digital currencies and related protocols, and other innovations in technology and business models; political conditions and related actions, including trade restrictions and government sanctions, in the United States and abroad which may adversely affect our business and economic conditions as a whole, including interruptions of United States or other government relations with countries in which we have or are implementing significant business relationships with agents or clients; deterioration in customer confidence in our business, or in money transfer and payment service providers generally; our ability to adopt new technology and develop and gain market acceptance of new and enhanced services in response to changing industry and consumer needs or trends; changes in, and failure to manage effectively, exposure to foreign exchange rates, including the impact of the regulation of foreign exchange spreads on money transfers and payment transactions; any material breach of security, including cybersecurity, or safeguards of or interruptions in any of our systems or those of our vendors or other third parties; cessation of or defects in various services provided to us by third-party vendors; mergers, acquisitions, and the integration of acquired businesses and technologies into our Company, divestitures, and the failure to realize anticipated financial benefits from these transactions, and events requiring us to write down our goodwill; decisions to change our business mix; failure to manage credit and fraud risks presented by our agents, clients and consumers; failure to maintain our agent network and business relationships under terms consistent with or more advantageous to us than those currently in place, including due to increased costs or loss of business as a result of increased compliance requirements or difficulty for us, our agents or their subagents in establishing or maintaining relationships with banks needed to conduct our services; changes in tax laws, or their interpretation, including with respect to United States tax reform legislation enacted in December 2017 (the “Tax Act”), any subsequent regulation, and potential related state income tax impacts, and unfavorable resolution of tax contingencies; adverse rating actions by credit rating agencies; our ability to realize the anticipated benefits from business transformation, productivity and cost-savings, and other related initiatives, which may include decisions to downsize or to transition operating activities from one location to another, and to minimize any disruptions in our workforce that may result from those initiatives; our ability to protect our brands and our other intellectual property rights and to defend ourselves against potential intellectual property infringement claims; our ability to attract and retain qualified key employees and to manage our workforce successfully; material changes in the market value or liquidity of securities that we hold; restrictions imposed by our debt obligations; (ii) events related to our regulatory and litigation environment, such as: liabilities or loss of business resulting from a failure by us, our agents or their subagents to comply with laws and regulations and regulatory or judicial interpretations thereof, including laws and regulations designed to protect consumers, or detect and prevent money laundering, terrorist financing, fraud and other illicit activity; increased costs or loss of business due to regulatory initiatives and changes in laws, regulations and industry practices and standards, including changes in interpretations in the United States and abroad, affecting us, our agents or their subagents, or the banks with which we or our agents maintain bank accounts needed to provide our services, including related to anti-money laundering regulations, anti-fraud measures, our licensing arrangements, customer due diligence, agent and subagent due diligence, registration and monitoring requirements, consumer protection requirements, remittances, and immigration; liabilities, increased costs or loss of business and unanticipated developments resulting from governmental investigations and consent agreements with or enforcement actions by regulators, including those associated with the settlement agreements with the United States Department of Justice, certain United States Attorney’s Offices, the United States Federal Trade Commission, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the United States Department of Treasury, and various state attorneys general (the “Joint Settlement Agreements”), and those associated with the January 4, 2018 consent order which resolved a matter with the New York State Department of Financial Services (the “NYDFS Consent Order”); liabilities resulting from litigation, including class-action lawsuits and similar matters, and regulatory enforcement actions, including costs, expenses, settlements and judgments; failure to comply with regulations and evolving industry standards regarding consumer privacy and data use and security, including with respect to the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) approved by the European Union (“EU”); failure to comply with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”), as well as regulations issued pursuant to it and the actions of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and similar legislation and regulations enacted by other governmental authorities in the United States and abroad related to consumer protection and derivatives transactions; effects of unclaimed property laws or their interpretation or the enforcement thereof; failure to maintain sufficient amounts or types of regulatory capital or other restrictions on the use of our working capital to meet the changing requirements of our regulators worldwide; changes in accounting standards, rules and interpretations or industry standards affecting our business; and (iii) other events, such as: catastrophic events; and management’s ability to identify and manage these and other risks.